Something happens. You take information from outside your head, filter it, delete, distort and generalize it, then make a movie of it inside your head. Then YOU decide what you make it mean. You give it meaning based on your values, ideas, experiences and expectations*.
It’s up to you to decide what something means to you. It’s like you are telling yourself a story – you can change your story by changing what you make stuff mean. Kind of like ‘Choose your own Adventure’ books.
‘A ‘doesn’t have to equal ‘B’.
‘A’ (External Event) doesn’t have to equal ‘B’ (Your Meaning).
‘A’ could equal ‘B’ or any other letter in the alphabet.
‘She didn’t say good morning to me’ does not have to equal ‘I feel angry because she deliberately ignored me’.
- Play the ‘This Equals That’ Game:
Sarah, your colleague, walks into your work area and says hello to two other colleagues – but not you. How do you respond? What do you instantly think or assume. Sometimes we think the worst:
She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= She hates me!
You could go with the ‘She hates me’ meaning. And worry about it until you have a chance to check if everything is alright. But Sarah has just gone into a two hour meeting. You are sitting at your desk. It’s kind of bothering you. What can you do?
- Play the ‘What Else Could it Equal’ Game:
Well, you can play with the meaning, and justtry on some different meanings. For example:
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= She has the upcoming meeting on her mind.
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= Maybe I should say good morning to her.
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= She is feeling really ill and as on her way to the bathroom.
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= I hope she is OK.
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= She didn’t see me.
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= I’ve done something to upset her.
- She didn’t say good morning to me EQUALS= She just had a massive fight with her husband.
- Step back and choose the meaning that works for you.
Choose the most useful meaning for you. Try on the one that is the most resourceful, and sits best with you, and helps you be who you want to be at work. Then use your other powers (words, actions, emotions) to choose how you respond.
Why knowing you can choose your meanings is vital.
You are never stuck with your first meaning. You might choose to keep your first meaning, but know that you don’t have to. And you can change it later if you like! You can give things different meanings. When people first learn this they are often surprised. What could you give a different meaning to in your workplace that will help you be your best?
*The NLP Communication Model was first published in Richard Bandler and John Grinder’s The Structure of Magic, Vol 1, 1975.